Considering the Role of Immigration Policy for the Health and Care Workforce

Considering the Role of Immigration Policy for the Health and Care Workforce

According to the King’s Fund (2022), “International recruitment will always play a part in the health and care workforce. Bill Morgan’s report argues that immigration has not be used strategically and that politicians have failed to use this key lever effectively.” The report goes on to say that “Successful use of international recruitment… requires other steps to create a supportive immigration policy, building on the streamlined health and care visa process and arrangements for mutual recognition of qualifications with other countries. The health and care system benefits hugely from its international recruits but more needs to be done to ensure the culture of workplaces are supportive of the global workforce in health and care.” 


Obviously one of the greatest benefits of being in the EU was the transferability of nursing qualifications across borders, and the implementation of Brexit now jeopardises the long-term benefits of this. 


The nature of international recruitment is that politically it moves in and out of favour, and therefore so too do the immigration rules in relation to how easy it is to recruit from overseas. 


The introduction of the Health and Care Visa in 2021 was a significant improvement in terms of prioritising all Health and Care workforce for visas. So too was the removal of the Healthcare Surcharge (a previous levy on healthcare workers’ employers to pay a contribution towards the use of the NHS).  


However we still see the presence of the Immigration Skills Charge in place. This “tax” is applied to any overseas worker being sponsored by a UK company and is usually £1000 per year that the visa is sponsored. SMEs and charitable organisations pay a reduced fee of £364. However this sizeable upfront cost which must be paid in full prior to the overseas worker entering the UK is one of the biggest disincentives we see for Employers deciding not to pursue international recruitment.  


From a political perspective, the Immigration Skills Charge is seen as an important factor in encouraging organisations to look first to domestic talent to fill their roles, which makes sense. Except in the context of many international healthcare roles on the shortage occupation list where we know that the pipeline of domestic talent simply doesn’t exist. In this context we see this tax as further penalising healthcare organisations fighting to remain operational. 


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